There’s new reason to rejoice now that this lost classic from ’94 — the world’s first glimpse of the remarkable Smith family of New Jersey, best known as the Danielson Famile — is being made available once again to the public. Having been described as the “most joyously eccentric group of performers to ascend the New Jersey Turnpike since Sun Ra’s Arkestra” (Richard Gehr, Spin Magazine), the Famile has been slowly unfurling their mythology to the public for nearly a decade now. The group, led by eldest brother Daniel, initially had critics and audiences alike scratching their heads wondering if their collision of aesthetics and spirituality was, as some put it, “an elaborate put-on.” In those days artists and rockers alike were dumbfounded by just how complicated a marriage the Famile’s collision of aesthetics and faith seemed to them. In ’94, there weren’t many artists weened on Sonic Youth and the Pixies who were as serious about spirituality as the Danielson Famile. The independent rock underground, rather, was more comfortable leaving faith issues to be dealt with by folks such as Marvin Gaye and George Harrison. Daniel and Co., however, have helped contribute to a partial breaking down of that barrier of cool, and it all started with A PRAYER FOR EVERY HOUR, a 24-song cycle of tunes intended to be performed or experienced once an hour, on the hour, as a devotional gesture of faith.
In looking back at this debut and the roots which bore it, Daniel had the following to say: “This was the year I stopped running away from home, picked up my acoustic guitar again and changed from being Dan back to Daniel. I woke up to the fact that I have an amazing family, an amazing childhood and I began to relate everything I was thinking and doing with this in mind. My mom and dad and I worked on the Quilt Car for the thesis show and my brothers and sisters backed me up on the songs that came out of that year. I began reading the Bible and praying again and songs and art started flowing. I would meet with my dad and talk philosophy and theology and I became a child again. “I had been studying the following: T-Rex, Rapeman, B.A.L.L., Syd Barrett, Bob Dylan, Bongwater, My Bloody Valentine, Beat Happening, Cypress Hill, Ween, Donovon , Sonic Youth, Royal Trux, Beatles, Half Japanese, A Tribe Called Quest, Bowie, Can, Pixies, Minutemen, James Brown, Tom Waits, Daniel Johnston, Brian Eno, Larry Norman, Captain Beefheart and more, too. I made all these recordings, some from my solo 4-track, some with my friends Jason and Missy backing and some with my brothers and sisters backing. Danielson became the name of the songs that I write. I had become “Daniel” and realized that I am a son. “I spent the next few months putting the songs together with the A PRAYER FOR EVERY HOUR concept living in my parents basement. I made cassettes and sent them out to all the indie labels I knew and no one responded except for Tooth and Nail from California. Chris Palladino had moved back to NJ from Seattle and I asked him to play keyboards. He had never played an instrument before but he’s the kind of talent that can do anything he wants to. We began to practice and played around Philadelphia area. WFMU radio and Rob in Edgerton were the ones to take Danielson and shine a light on our music. Other Music in NYC had us play an in-store performance and things just exploded for us. So we keep going.” – Daniel Smith